Today’s featured video is from Unite in the UK, and looks at the union’s Community Membership scheme – a vital way of bringing community activists into the union movement so tat we can campaign collectively against austerity and for social justice. Can …

Walton Pantland

Today’s featured video is from Unite in the UK, and looks at the union’s Community Membership scheme – a vital way of bringing community activists into the union movement so tat we can campaign collectively against austerity and for social justice.

Canada’s Tories are attacking union rights, with leader of the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario’s federal government, Tim Hudak, urging sweeping changes to labour law to strip unions of their power. Hudak claims that the proposal has nothing to do with ideology, and is all about “boosting jobs“. Like most conservatives, Hudak opposes anything that slows the flow of wealth to the top.

As we reported on Monday, 8,500 utility workers for Con Ed in New York have been locked out in a dispute with their union, the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA). The city has been hit by a heat wave, putting pressure on the system which is being maintained by scabs. This reminds us of the geniuses who last month locked out power plant workers – also UWUA members – and ran a nuclear power plant using scab labour. Health and safety first, comrades!

Also in the US, workers at Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee have been on strike for a month. They are demanding recognition and the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The campaign has an excellent website called Slice of Justice. You can sign the petition to support the Palermo’s workers here, or express you support on Twitter and Facebook.

In Melbourne, Australia, construction workers marched through the city in a protest against a new building code that will ban union logos and insignia from construction sites.

In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti threw down the gauntlet to unions by promising more of the austerity that that is sending the continent into a recessionary spiral. Monti plans to cut public sector jobs. Susanna Camusso, head of the country’s largest union, CGIL, responded by saying a general strike would be necessary to resist these measures.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers has issued the government with a strike notice in protest at delays in implementing pay agreements.

In Kazakhstan, thousands of ArcelorMittal workers embarked on a three hour work stoppage and strike warning. They are demanding a 30% pay increase.

In Indonesia, in a project supported by the ILO, child labourers were given the opportunity to tell their stories on film. The ILO estimates there are 2.5 million child labourers in Indonesia.

Economist James Galbraith suggests a way to save the global economy that trade unionists would agree with: raise the minimum wage – a lot. Galbraith shows how increasing the amount of money to people on the lowest incomes would increase the amount they spend in the economy – boosting business for everyone. While raising wages would push up inflation, the effect would be small because most people on minimum wage are so badly underpaid.

The problem the world economy faces is not a shortage of money, but an investment strike. Most surplus capital – profit – is siphoned off to the financialised stratosphere, and not ever reinvested in the productive economy where working people make and do things. Raising corporation tax and wages is one way to stop this steady stream of wealth from the poor to the rich. Anyone object to a pay raise to save the economy?

For more on alternatives to austerity, join our web conference on Friday afternoon with Stephanie Kelton, who will be speaking about Modern Monetary Theory and how governments can spend their way out of recession.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar

Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

Read All Articles